Italy ex­poses an ugly In­dian scan­dal

Geopo­lit­i­cal notes notes from from In­dia In­dia

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENT - M D Nala­pat

SE­mail: mg­nala­pat@gmail.com INCE the 1950s,cor­rup­tion has grown in In­dia, but not as fast as has been the growth of “an­ti­cor­rup­tion agen­cies”. The In­dian state, in line with its colo­nial tra­di­tions, be­lieves that it is only the state that should po­lice the state, and as a con­se­quence, there has been a pro­lif­er­a­tion of agen­cies tasked with elim­i­nat­ing cor­rup­tion. Large staterun com­pa­nies, for in­stance, have each their own “vig­i­lance” wing, which is ex­pected to in­ves­ti­gate charges of graft against of­fi­cers of the con­cerned public sec­tor com­pany. Such de­part­ments are un­der the con­trol of the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor (MD) of the com­pany, and if - as is of­ten the case - the MD’s of­fice is where cor­rup­tion is at its high­est, it is clear that the Vig­i­lance Depart­ment will spend its time chas­ing lower rank of­fi­cers on petty mat­ters rather than go af­ter the big shots, es­pe­cially those who are ac­com­plices of the top com­pany man­agers.

In­ci­den­tally, in In­dia in­stances have been many where those at the top have man­u­fac­tured false charges against of­fi­cers who have re­fused to rat­ify the cor­rup­tion of their se­niors. The con­se­quence has been that such (hon­est) of­fi­cials get pe­nalised over some small trans­gres­sions ( such as get­ting re­im­bursed Rs 150 more than a ticket was worth, ow­ing to care­less­ness in fil­ing of ac­counts), even go­ing to prison while those guilty of rak­ing in mil­lions of dol­lars es­cape with their pen­sions in­tact.

In In­dia, hawala op­er­a­tors en­sure that cash in ru­pees gets swiftly trans­formed into eu­ros and dol­lars and sent to safe lo­ca­tions, where they cab be de­ployed as per the wishes of those who have made this “black” (ie un­ac­counted) in­come. And th­ese days, there are sev­eral coun­tries which wel­come those with bulging bank ac­counts to be­come res­i­dents and even cit­i­zens. Small won­der that the num­ber of those from in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal and of­fi­cial fam­i­lies who are ac­quir­ing for­eign pass­ports is grow­ing. Since 2010,when a raft of cor­rup­tion stories filled the me­dia in In­dia, there has been phe­nom­e­nal growth in the mon­eys flow­ing abroad, a flow that has ac­cel­er­ated af­ter the “Drive on Black Money” ini­ti­ated by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi soon af­ter he took of­fice on May 26,2014.

Modi took a de­ci­sion to re­tain in key posts al­most all the top bu­reau­crats who were prom­i­nent dur­ing the six­teen years when Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee and Man­mo­han Singh were Prime Min­is­ters ( 1998-2014). Sev­eral of them were fa­cil­i­ta­tors of the pro­cesses through which se­nior min­is­ters made hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for them­selves. As they are still in key slots, th­ese of­fi­cials have man­aged to en­sure that Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s ef­forts to en­force ac­count­abil­ity for past acts of cor­rup­tion have been put on a very slow track.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi has fol­lowed his prac­tice (while Chief Min­is­ter of Gu­jarat) of re­tain­ing key of­fi­cials from past regimes, but af­ter two years, it has be­come clear that un­less those of­fi­cials known to have fa­cil­i­tated scam­ster min­is­ters in the past get re­placed in sen­si­tive slots by honesr of­fi­cials, the ac­count­abil­ity sought by the Prime Min­is­ter will be elu­sive. Af­ter all, such scam­ster min­is­ters in the two pre­vi­ous regimes groomed and pro­moted only those of­fi­cers who were crooked enough or op­por­tunis­tic enough to do the or bid­ding, not the hon­est ma­jor­ity in the sys­tem. Such bent of­fi­cers will be des­per­ate to pre­vent gen­uine en­quiries from tak­ing place, for fear that th­ese will lead to their doors

The de­lib­er­ate in­com­pe­tence of in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies in In­dia can be seen from the fact that al­most ev­ery mega scam that has been ex­posed owes dis­clo­sure to a for­eign source. The army of anti-cor­rup­tion agen­cies in In­dia have not lo­cated any bank ac­count abroad of top of­fi­cials or politi­cians. What few rev­e­la­tions there have been are be­cause of ex­poses in the for­eign me­dia, ex­actly as took place in the mat­ter of the pay­offs for the Bo­fors guns in 1986. In­ci­den­tally, be­cause of a cover up by the agen­cies in­volved, prac­ti­cally all those who took bribes dur­ing that trans­ac­tion were sub­se­quently ex­on­er­ated of any wrong­do­ing by courts in In­dia, who were forced to rely on the ev­i­dence pre­sented by the agen­cies and go by such doc­u­men­ta­tion, which in many cases was mis­lead­ing and ob fus­ca­tory.

Now a court in Italy has con­victed in­di­vid­u­als in a com­pany based there of hav­ing paid bribes to in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in In­dia to en­sure pur­chases of he­li­copters. Re­ports about bribes be­ing paid sur­faced three years ago, and then De­fence Min­is­ter A K Antony promptly got a First In­for­ma­tion Re­port filed on the mat­ter, sub­se­quently or­der­ing a halt to fresh pur­chases from the com­pany re­ported as hav­ing bribed of­fi­cials and politi­cians. This was for the record, for af­ter­wards, there was zero fol­low up ac­tion. The re­sult is that the bribe tak­ers have been hav­ing a com­fort­able life in In­dia (when not trav­el­ling abroad), while in Italy, the bribe givers have been sent to jail. Why is it that so lit­tle progress is made in In­dia in the mat­ter of in­ves­ti­gat­ing even the crimes of pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments?

A se­nior min­is­ter told this colum­nist in 2007 that the pol­icy was to “set aside 40% of the bribe amount for per­sonal uses of the de­ci­sion mak­ers in­volved, 40% for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses of the rul­ing par­ties and 20% to be dis­trib­uted to Op­po­si­tion politi­cians to en­sure their si­lence”. The pol­icy of en­sur­ing that even those in the op­po­si­tion make money dur­ing the ten­ure in of­fice of a ri­val party has meant that skele­tons re­main buried rather than un­cov­ered. In In­dia, the life­styles of those in op­po­si­tion are as high fly­ing as those in gov­ern­ment, for in the Lu­tyens sys­tem, top politi­cians look af­ter each other, thereby in­sur­ing them­selves in case there is a change in regime.

Af­ter nearly two years study­ing the Lu­tyens sys­tem, Prime Min­is­ter Modi would have un­der­stood the way in which this has per­pet­u­ated cor­rup­tion. There are signs that the PM is now ready­ing him­self to en­sure that gen­uine ac­count­abil­ity take place, even if in such a process some within his own party get in­dicted. Af­ter all, not ev­ery­body in the Congress Party is a sin­ner and not ev­ery­one in the BJP is a saint. A house­clean­ing of those in­volved in cosy fi­nan­cial links with past regimes is over­due and id ex­pected to take place, so that in In­dia, cor­rup­tion fi­nally reg­is­ters a de­cline that is in­versely pro­por­tional to the num­ber of top politi­cians and of­fi­cials sent to jail for de­fraud­ing the public dur­ing their years in of­fice. Much is ex­pected from Modi in com­ing months and years in this re­gard —The writer is Vice-Chair, Ma­ni­pal Ad­vanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Pro­fes­sor of Geopol­i­tics, Ma­ni­pal Univer­sity, Haryana State, In­dia.

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